19

May 2015

June Pre-Orders – Don’t Miss Out!

June 1, 2015 sees the launch of 4 new books from Down & Out Books.  They are 1) LADIES NIGHT: Sisters In Crime/LA 2015 Anthology edited by Naomi Hirahara, Kate Thornton and Jeri Westerson, 2) OVER THEIR HEADS by JB Kohl & Eric Beetner, 3) RULES OF HONOR by Matt Hilton and 4) TALES FROM THE BLUE LINE by Rob Riley.


 

Sistersx750LADIES NIGHT: Sisters in Crime/LA 2015 Anthology

From Valley Girls to Valley of the Dolls, the L.A. Woman has captured our imagination and redefined the fairer sex. CJ Parker is our lifeguard, Lucy Arnaz, our studio executive, Angelyne, our reality star, and the Black Dahlia, our murder victim. L.A. neighborhoods have spawned the Beverly Hills housewife, the Hollywood starlet, the Van Nuys dominatrix, the Santa Monica Surf Betty and the Manson girls, to name a few.

LADIES’ NIGHT, an anthology by Sisters in Crime Los Angeles, includes stories by Julie G. Beers, Julie Brayton, Sarah M. Chen, Arthur Coburn, L.H. Dillman, Bengte Evenson, Cyndra Gernet, Andrew Jetarski, Micheal Kelly, Susan Kosar-Beery, Jude McGee, Gigi Pandian and Wendall Thomas.

The anthology is edited by Naomi Hirahara, Kate Thornton and Jeri Westerson.  Award winning L.A. crime novelist Denise Hamilton wrote the introduction.

Pre-Order for $2.99 on the Kindle | Nook and Trade Paperback available after June 1


 

OTHx750OVER THEIR HEADS by JB Kohl and Eric Beetner

The drugs are missing and four lives are about to collide.

Clyde just wanted to make a little extra cash on the side to raise his new baby. Now his life and the lives of his wife and newborn daughter are in jeopardy.

Brent just wanted to do his job and be left alone. Now he’s in a race against time for his life.

Sean just wanted to escape the crime he committed in Detroit. Now he’s stumbled into another. The money he embezzled is nothing compared the load of narcotics that fell into his lap.

And Skeeter? Well, Skeeter wants the drugs back, and he’ll use any means necessary to get them.

When these four are let loose on a mad scramble to locate the drugs, they cut a path of mayhem and bloodshed across Virginia. Inept would-be criminals clash with ruthless drug dealers in a violent weekend where no one is safe.

The only certainty: Everyone is in over their heads.

Pre-Order for $1.49 on the Kindle | Trade Paperback available after June 1


 

ROHx1500RULES OF HONOR by Matt Hilton

When Rink’s father is murdered, Joe Hunter vows to help his friend avenge his brutal death. Rink’s mother Yukiko isn’t talking, her silence governed by the Bushido tradition of giri, or moral obligation. But other people known to Yukiko are also dying, all due to a shameful secret from their past that Hunter must uncover if he hopes to end the murders. To do that rules must be broken, and Hunter doesn’t care what he must break to stop the killer.

Pre-Order for $2.99 on the Kindle | Trade Paperback available after June 1

 

 


 

BLUELINEx750TALES FROM THE BLUE LINE by Rob Riley

Tales from the Blue Line by Rob Riley is the first in a new series of “Crimespree Magazine Presents.” This is a compilation of twenty-nine separate police investigations conducted by Rob Riley and his partners, while they were Milwaukee Police officers. Riley was sworn in as a police officer in 1971 and retired as a detective in 2001. His career was unique even from the beginning, when with only a few months on the job he was recruited to be an undercover narcotics officer. After seven extremely intense years undercover and one year in uniform, Riley was promoted to the rank of detective where he spent the rest of his career.

From purchasing illegal drugs from people on the streets to executing nearly a hundred search warrants, his time in the Narcotics Squad seemed like more than a lifetime of police experiences. Twenty-two years as a major crimes detective, Riley connected with high ranking officials in the District Attorney’s office, as well as some of the most highly regarded defense attorney’s in the country. He was a private investigator for two years after his retirement.

Pre-Order for $1.49 on the Kindle | Trade Paperback available after June 1

 

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18

May 2015

Crimespree Magazine #59 available for your eReader!

cover59Issue 59 is jammed full of interviews…Eight of them in all! The feature interview is with Dana Cameron and conducted by the Crimespree Crew. Elise Cooper provides two Q&As with David Baldacci and Tony Schumacher. Jon Jordan catches up with JD Rhoades and Alan Finn. Kate Malmon speaks with Kristi Belcamino while Michael Barson talks with Phillip Kerr. As if that wasn’t enough, Dan Malmon catches up with Dave White.

Issue 59 delivers two pieces of fiction this go around: Bryan VanMeter and Alex Mattingly. Jimmy Palmiotti writes about the sexiest noir while Karin Salvalaggio give the 4-1-1 on her five music influences.

The usual suspects here as well:  Reed Farrel Coleman, Amy Alessio and Ayo Onatade. Frank De Blase is back in action this issue. Also, Jeremy Lynch’s Eye on Hollywood, Buzzbin, Book Reviews, Crimespree on Comics and Cooking with Crimespree appear as well.


Editions:  Kindle | Nook


 

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14

May 2015

Preview of RULES OF HONOR by Matt Hilton with a Limited Time Pre-Order Price

ROHx1500

 

When Rink’s father is murdered, Joe Hunter vows to help his friend avenge his brutal death. Rink’s mother Yukiko isn’t talking, her silence governed by the Bushido tradition of giri, or moral obligation. But other people known to Yukiko are also dying, all due to a shameful secret from their past that Hunter must uncover if he hopes to end the murders. To do that rules must be broken, and Hunter doesn’t care what he must break to stop the killer.

 

 

 


Praise for RULES OF HONOR

“The action scenes are immaculately described…and even the shades of grey are murkier than ever. An excellent starting point to the dark and dangerous world of Joe Hunter.”

—crimereview.co.uk

“A rip-snorting novel which is fast paced, exciting and yet self-aware enough to address its own belief system.”

—Graham Smith, author of Snatched From Home

“…Hilton drives pace faster than The Stig…”

—crimesquad.com

 

“Sharp and hard hitting…Matt doesn’t allow himself to get complacent, but continually delves deeper into the psyche of Joe…Fast-paced, action-filled and completely addictive, Matt shows his continuing maturity as a writer with an exhilarating ride that still maintains humour and wit.”

—www.shotsmag.co.uk


Pre-Order the Kindle edition for $2.99 until June 1, 2015


Chapter 1

‘Stay in bed, I’m going to take a look.’

‘I’ll phone the police.’

‘No. Just wait until I check things out. It was maybe just the wind.’

‘That wasn’t the wind, Andrew.’

‘Maybe not, but it’s too early to call the police. Just wait and I’ll go see. If I’m not back in two minutes, call then.’

The woman watched her husband pull a robe over his bulky shoulders, then move for the closet in their bedroom. He opened the door and reached for the top shelf, from which he retrieved a locked box. Inside the box was a relic of her husband’s past. He glanced at her briefly, an apologetic look, but then withdrew the gun that winked dully in the lamplight. Inside the box was a rapid loader, and Andrew fed the six bullets into the gun with precision. Done, he looked at his wife again.

‘It’s only a precaution,’ he whispered, closing the cylinder and latching it tight.

‘Be careful…’

His wife had switched on the bedside lamp, but the rest of the house was in darkness. As he eased open the door and peered into the upstairs hall he pressed his body close to the opening to stop light spill. He paused there a moment, allowing his eyes to adjust to the dark. Then he slipped out into the hall, surprisingly agile for a man of his advanced years. Andrew was a septuagenarian but looking at him most would guess he was at least ten years younger. His height had barely been touched by the years, and he still had the broad shoulders and heavy arms of his youth. His knees bothered him these days, but not now while a bubble of adrenalin coursed through his frame. He went along the hall with the gun held close to his side. He didn’t concern himself with the guest bedrooms or the bathroom because the sound that had woken them had definitely come from below in the living room.

Recently there had been a spate of burglaries in the neighbourhood, the cops putting down the breaking and entries to drug addicts looking for cash, credit cards and items easily pawned. Andrew and his wife, though they weren’t rich, were wealthy enough to attract the attention of a sneak thief. That angered Andrew: he’d worked hard all of his life, even put his safety on the line, to make an easy retirement for him and his wife. No sneak thief was going to take anything from them.

A lifetime ago he’d fought in Korea, had survived the worst that war could throw at him, and for decades afterwards had striven to be the same soldier. He had failed to protect his girl child, who’d succumbed through illness, and one boy following suit with a military career had been killed in the line of duty. So now he was more determined than ever that he would not fail his wife and allow some punk to invade their home and take their lives’ worth. He was old but he’d lost none of his military acumen and thought himself more than equal to a drug-addled thief.

From the head of the landing he peered down the stairs.

Moonlight flooded the vestibule at the bottom, a skewed oblong cast from the window in the front door stretching across the floor. Within the light grey shadows danced, but Andrew recognised them as the trees in his garden dancing to the breeze. He took the stairs one at a time, avoiding the third step down that was prone to squeak under his weight. As he descended the stairs he looked for the blinking red light on the alarm box on the hall wall, but it was steady. Whoever had found a way inside was clever enough to dismantle the alarm. Or they knew the code and had turned it off. There was only one other person who knew the code, but he wasn’t prone to dropping in uninvited like this in the dead of night. Alone the sound they’d heard wasn’t proof that an invader was in their house, but the dead alarm now solidified it. Andrew considered going back upstairs and telling his wife to telephone the police immediately, but something halted him. Pride. Foolish pride perhaps, but he wasn’t the type to run from danger.

Some would have been tempted to call out a challenge, but Andrew knew that it would be a mistake. A desperate drug addict might run for it, but then if Andrew had managed to corner him then his desperation might turn violent. Better that he initiated any beating than the other way around. He went down the stairs, paused to check the alarm box and saw that the guts of it had been teased open and a wire clipped onto the exposed workings to form a loop in the system. The alarm had been negated, but the automatic signal to his service provider would not have kicked in, as it would if the wires had been merely torn out. If he’d stopped to think for a moment he’d have realised that it was too sophisticated a method for an addict only intent on his next fix. But he wasn’t thinking he was reacting. Threat demanded action.

He glanced once towards the kitchen but discarded it: a thief would go for the living room where the possibility of rich pickings was greater. He moved along the short hallway and saw that the door to the sitting room was ajar. Always conscious about home safety, fire and smoke being the worst threat to sleeping inhabitants, he was always careful to turn off electrical appliances and to close doors tight. He had got it down to a bedtime routine and knew he’d closed that door tightly, as he did every night. He paused there listening. He thought he heard a soft footfall, but it came from above, probably his wife. Placing a fingertip to the door, he teased it inward, the revolver held steady against his hip. Then, without warning he shoved the door hard and stepped quickly into the room, sweeping the familiar space for anything alien.

There was nobody to be seen.

If not for the jerry-rigged alarm he’d have thought he’d been mistaken, that the noise that woke him was nothing but wind throwing the garden furniture around the yard. He wondered if the burglar had heard him as he’d risen and had made himself scarce. But in the next instant he knew that he was wrong.

A cold metallic tickle behind his right ear made him halt.

‘You know what that is, don’t you, old man?’

Andrew nodded slightly, a minute movement because he didn’t know how hair-triggered the gun pressed to his skull was.

‘Mine’s bigger than yours,’ whispered the voice over his shoulder. ‘I suggest you drop that old revolver and kick it back to me.’

‘Okay, son, take it easy now.’ Andrew lifted the revolver and flicked the latch to open the swing-out cylinder. He rattled the gun and allowed the shells to tumble out and clatter on the hardwood floor.

‘Not good enough.’ A fist was jabbed into Andrew’s back, directly above his left kidney. Pain flared through the old man, sending a white flash across his vision. ‘Now, as I said first time, put down the gun and kick it back to me.’

‘It’s useless,’ Andrew said, desperate not to relinquish the weapon having placed some spare rounds in his robe pocket.

‘Is it?’ The man clubbed Andrew across the back of his head and sent him sprawling into the living room.

As he fell the revolver was knocked from Andrew’s hand. In the seconds afterwards it didn’t matter because he used both hands to cover the split in his scalp. ‘Son of a bitch.’

‘You see,’ the man said. ‘Even an empty gun can be a good weapon.’ He levelled his semi-automatic handgun on Andrew’s chest. ‘Not that mine’s empty.’

Andrew struggled up to a seated position, grabbing at a settee for support. He could feel blood trickling through his hair. He looked up at the man, squinting to try to make sense of the face.

‘Who the hell are you? What do you want?’

One thing Andrew was sure about: this was no addict looking for a quick payday. The man was large and solidly built, dressed in black jeans, black jacket and a black baseball cap. Backlit by the meagre moonlight in the hall he looked like a living silhouette.

‘If I answered your first question, you’d probably guess the second.’

‘If you’re after money, you’ve come to the wrong place. You’d be better off…’

‘I’m not here for money.’

‘That’s good, son, because I’m old and haven’t worked in years, I don’t have much to get by on.’

‘Save it,’ said the man. ‘You’re wasting your time trying to make conversation. I know what you’re trying to do: humanize yourself in my eyes, making me think twice about doing you harm. You’re wasting the few breaths you have left.’

Andrew was thinking clearer now and studied his surroundings for a way out of this. He didn’t like what the man had just said, it sounded like he had only one agenda. No way was Andrew going to sit on his ass and offer his would-be killer an easy ride. He thought of his wife upstairs and knew that she’d be next, but not if he did enough to alert her to the danger, and slowed the bastard down. He looked for something to use as a weapon.

‘Don’t even think about it.’

Andrew returned his gaze to the man. He’d stepped inside the room and was looming over Andrew. The gun was held steadily, the barrel aimed directly at Andrew’s face. ‘I want you to know why I’m here, why I’m about to kill you. It’d be a shame if I had to put a bullet through your skull before I showed you this.’

From his jacket pocket the man took out a cell phone. He’d readied it beforehand, and he held out the glowing screen so that Andrew could see the photograph on the screen. Andrew screwed his eyes to help focus the picture and saw that in fact it was a photograph taken from one much older. The image was of a man in uniform, sepia in colour. It was many decades since Andrew had seen that face but he recognised it and knew who this man might be.

‘Who is it?’ Andrew tried, but he knew the man recognised the lie.

‘You don’t remember? Well that’s a shame, because he’s waiting to greet you in hell.’

The man’s voice had risen in pitch and volume, and Andrew knew that the rest of his life could be counted in seconds. He coiled himself, ready to call out, to fight back, to do something.

Andrew squirmed round so that he was partly side-on to the man. To anyone uninitiated to violence it might seem that the old man was frightened and trying to make himself a smaller target. ‘You do know what he did?’

‘Oh, so you’re admitting that you know him now?’ The man put the phone away and from his pocket took out a long tubular object. Andrew recognised it as a sound suppressor. It was both a bad and good sign. It meant that the man was not a first time killer and had come prepared, but also that he did not want to raise an alarm by firing indiscriminately.

‘He deserved everything he got,’ Andrew said.

‘No one deserved that!’ The man screwed the suppressor onto the barrel of his gun with a few practiced twists. He did it blindly, but couldn’t deny the natural reaction to glance at it once, to make sure he’d secured it correctly. It was only a brief second of inattention, but Andrew took advantage of it.

From his side-on position he could chamber his left leg, and he shot it out, aiming with his bare heel at the man’s shin. Better that he aim for the knee, but he didn’t have the range. His heel struck bone, at the same time as he swung his other foot to hook behind the man’s ankle. Andrew scissored his legs. An untrained man would have been upended, giving Andrew time to swarm on top of him and to snatch away the gun. Unfortunately this man had come with violence in mind, and though he was staggered, he was agile enough that he was able to disengage his trapped leg and to hop aside…bringing round the gun.

‘No!’

Andrew’s yell wasn’t out of fear of the bullet destined for him.

A slight figure had appeared as a shadow behind the man, one arm raised in the air. With all of her strength his wife brought down a plant pot she’d lifted off a hallway dresser. The man had somehow felt her presence behind him and was already turning. The plant pot struck him on the shoulder, but it was nothing to the man. He continued his turn and swung with the barrel of the gun, striking the woman across the side of her skull. She hit the floor quicker than the falling plant pot, which shattered in a way that Andrew feared her skull had. The man gave one disdainful look at the woman before turning his attention back to Andrew.

He took a step back. Andrew had come up from the floor much faster than a man of his age should have been able.

‘Bastard!’ Andrew came at him with animal ferocity, throwing two solid punches at the man’s chest, but both fell short. ‘If you’ve killed her I’ll—’

The man shot him: three rapid bullets to the chest.

Andrew staggered at each impact.

This time you’ll do nothing,’ the man sneered.

Andrew collapsed to the floor, jammed in the doorway. He didn’t look at the man now, but at his wife. She lay on her side; her head cradled under one arm. He could barely see the rise and fall of her shoulder as it rode each breath.

‘Please,’ he moaned. ‘Take me, but don’t harm my wife.’

The man snorted.

‘Why not? It’s your lying wife’s fault it came to this.’

He shot Andrew again, this time in the head.

 

Chapter 2

It was misty in San Francisco.

The mist was nothing unusual, because it was a regular occurrence in the bay area. Something to do with the humidity coming in from the Pacific and meeting the cool air sweeping out from the U.S. landmass, or vice versa. Whatever the phenomenon, it had coalesced into low-lying clouds. Today it had formed out on the water, a huge embankment that had followed the shorelines, obscuring from view the world famous Golden Gate Bridge before pushing in to shroud Alcatraz and on to similarly veil the Bay Bridge. Above the mist I could still make out the tallest points of the Bay Bridge, against the backdrop of a starry sky. The thrum of traffic over the bridge was muted, a background accompaniment only. On the Embarcadero traffic was light, and none of the famous cable cars were in sight. Pedestrians were few as well, but there were street people camped out next to a large fountain that looked as if it had been erected using the leftover concrete from an overpass. Most of the street people were tucked under sleeping bags, shopping trolleys piled with their belongings forming wind breaks behind them. One of the homeless guys was an early riser like me, and he was rooting through some boxes outside a pizza shop. He had shuffled past a minute earlier without noticing me, which went a long way to prove my disguise was working.

I was wearing a thick parka jacket picked up from a military surplus store, plus jeans and a pair of boots that looked like they’d seen a thousand miles, and a wool cap pulled down around my ears. I’d gone unshaven for three days. To complete my disguise I’d rooted around in an open Dumpster and allowed the stink to percolate. I was sure that no one but another hobo would come within ten feet of me from choice.

It was very early, an hour or two before dawn, but I wasn’t feeling it. I’d only flown in from Florida two days before, and my body clock swore it was actually midmorning. I was wide-awake and intent on the job at hand. I saw the man I’d been waiting for immediately.

He was a large man. Maybe a shade over six feet, but big in other ways: big shoulders, big arms, big chest and waist. He was also big in the local criminal underworld, but still a few rungs from the top. He was dressed for purpose in a windcheater jacket: not a defence against the chill but to conceal the gun holstered beneath his left armpit. He was called Sean Chaney, a strong arm of the resident criminal fraternity. He looked half-asleep, which suited me fine.

As he moved by, I fell into step a dozen yards behind him. He didn’t glance at me, and wouldn’t be concerned if he did. All the homeless people here knew who he was, what he did for a living and didn’t hassle him for change. He walked alongside the Hyatt, a huge structure of tiered rooms and balconies to make the best of the view across the bay. The Embarcadero Centre was on our right; a three storied shopping mall that spanned several blocks of the city. Apart from security lighting all of the shops remained in darkness and there was no one else around. My boots scuffed the ground, and to me sounded like canon fire, but Chaney seemed oblivious and carried on to the corner of the hotel and took a left. Coming round the corner after him, I saw him check his watch and his pace picked up.

Valets on the hotel door watched Chaney stride past, but didn’t give me as much as a glance: it said something about human nature to me. There was a junction in the road here, and it was a boarding point for the cable cars that carried tourists up and down Nob Hill, but Chaney didn’t approach the stop but headed for the stairs down to the underground BART system. I counted to ten then followed down. He was already past the ticket machines heading for the southbound platform. There was no one else in sight, but I wasn’t worried. The big man was rubbing his eyes and yawning expansively. I fed coins into the machine, took my ticket and then shuffled towards the platform. This time Chaney did look at me, but it was a glancing blow that didn’t stick. He went back to yawning, turning away from me with uninterest. I slouched against a wall, at the opposite end of the platform.

The Bay Area Rapid Transport system is on the ball at all hours of the day and night, and it was little more than a minute before the train squealed into the station. Chaney was at the doors in a second, rocking on his heels while he waited for them to open. He squeezed inside even as the doors hissed open. I waited a few seconds more, then clambered aboard the second carriage along. There was a middle-aged Chinese woman sitting in my carriage and she gave me a brief fearful look, before quickly averting her eyes. She was sitting with a couple of bags on her lap and as I moved past her she pulled them tight to her chest like a shield. I cringed inwardly, thinking about how I’d frightened the woman, but it was neither the time nor the place to reassure her she was in no danger. The only person in danger on this train was Chaney.

The next carriage along was deserted.

I moved through it as the train pulled out of the station and began swaying along the tracks.

Coming to the next connecting doors, I paused.

Peeking through the glass I could see Chaney midway along the carriage. He was facing my way, but had taken out his cell phone and was involved in checking the screen for messages. He didn’t see me, and was totally oblivious of the other person who had entered the carriage from the far end. He’d obviously had it too easy of late and had lost the intrinsic paranoia necessary for a criminal.

My friend Jared Rington moved along the carriage with an easy pace, but even from this end I could see the muscles working in his jaw, an old knife scar standing out as a white slash against his tawny skin. Rink hadn’t gone to the trouble I had. He wasn’t disguised, and didn’t see the need. He wanted Chaney to know who was coming for him, and who his executioner was going to be. The only compromise to his usual colourful attire was a pair of black leather gloves. Chaney had his back to Rink, but my friend isn’t the type to do a hit from behind. Rink’s voice was muffled, but I still heard his sharp command: ‘Stand up you piece of shit.’

Chaney dropped his phone and went for his gun, already turning as he rose.

Rink struck him with the edge of his hand, a chop to the side of the big man’s neck. Uncontrolled the blow could kill, but Rink had tempered the force. It was still enough to stagger Chaney and while he was weakened, Rink took the gun from him with a practiced twist of the wrist. Chaney grunted something, continued his turn and tried to grapple for the gun. Rink hit him again, a sweeping elbow strike that contacted with Chaney’s face and knocked him back a few steps. Rink followed him, bringing up the Glock he’d liberated to point it directly at Chaney’s forehead.

Time I did something.

I hit the button and the door swept open.

As I entered the carriage my view of Rink was slightly obscured by Chaney’s thick body. I had a horrible feeling that Rink would shoot, and the bullet would go directly through Chaney’s skull and hit me. I sidestepped, placing myself in the open next to the exit doors. Rink was taller than Chaney, and I knew he’d seen me from the slight narrowing of his eyes. That was all the notice he gave me, though, because his attention was on the man he was about to kill.

I brought up my SIG Sauer P226 and pointed it at Chaney’s back. My other hand I held open to Rink.

‘Don’t do this, brother,’ I said to him. ‘Chaney’s a piece of shit, but he doesn’t deserve this.’

Rink didn’t even look at me. Nausea squirmed a passage through my gut.

‘Don’t,’ I said again.

‘What’re you going to do, Hunter?’ Rink’s eyes never left Chaney. ‘Shoot me?’

‘I don’t want to,’ I said.

‘That’s something, at least.’ Rink ignored me then and took a step nearer Chaney.

The enforcer reared back on his heels, bringing up his hands in a placating motion. ‘Whoa! What’s this all about?’

‘I’m about to kill you,’ my friend snarled.

‘Rink. Don’t do it.’ I hurried towards him. ‘Don’t cross the line, brother.’

‘It’s too late for that, Joe.’

I knew then that there was less than a heartbeat to spare.

I fired.

 

Chapter 3

Rink is more than a friend to me. He is more like a brother, and I love him as such. When he’s thinking straight he’d die for me, as I would for him. There’s no way on earth that I’d shoot him and he knew it. So I did the first thing that came to mind. I shot Sean Chaney instead.

I shot him to save his life.

My bullet struck him in his left thigh and he dropped like an ox in a slaughterhouse. He bellowed like one too, his hands going to the wound in his leg. The speed at which he’d collapsed saved him the bullet that Rink was about to put in his skull. My friend blinked over the top of the writhing man at me.

‘What the hell’d you do that for?’

‘To save you from making a big mistake.’

‘There’s no mistake.’ Rink turned the gun on the fallen enforcer, but I could see a flicker of doubt worming its way across his features.

By now I was alongside my friend and I put my hand on his wrist.

‘Trust me,’ I said.

He continued to train the gun on Chaney, but I could feel the doubt in his body now, and finally he allowed me to press the gun down.

‘It wasn’t Chaney,’ I said. ‘It wasn’t him or any of his guys.’

‘And you know that how?’

I flicked a cautionary nod. ‘Later, okay?’

At our feet the enforcer was sitting with his back against one of the bench seats. His jaw was set in a grimace of agony as he grasped at his wounded leg, and his eyes were brimming with fear as he watched us. He made a mistake of opening his mouth.

‘Who the fuck are you? Do you realise who you’re messing with?’

Rink rounded on him.

‘You’ve just got a goddamn reprieve, punk. Now shut your hole!’

Chaney looked at me. ‘You shot me, you bastard. You should’ve let your buddy kill me, ‘cause I’m gonna…’

‘Going to what?’ I glared down at him. ‘I barely scratched you. You’re an ungrateful piece of crap; I’ve just saved your life.’

‘Says who?’ Chaney struggled to get up, leaning on the bench with a blood-slicked hand. ‘The way I see it your buddy is too much of a pussy to shoot. If he was gonna do it, he’d have goddamn done it. Just wait ‘til I get up and—’

I kicked his support arm from under him. Chaney went down on his backside with a solid bump. Anger flared, shame at what he perceived as the ultimate humiliation. He began to struggle up. Rink and I shared a glance and it was just like old times, before all this started. I shrugged at him. Gave him the go ahead.

Rink turned up the corner of his mouth in a smile. Then he slapped the butt of the Glock against Chaney’s skull. The enforcer was out cold before he’d slumped all the way to the floor.

‘What now?’ Rink looked at me.

‘We get off at the next station and make ourselves scarce.’

‘Thought you’d maybe explain yourself first.’

‘There’s no time.’ I left Rink while I searched the floor and came back a moment later, pocketing the flattened round I’d put through Chaney’s leg.

Rink grunted. ‘That’s why I wore gloves and used his gun. No forensics to worry about.’

‘As if that would make a difference? Doesn’t look like you made an effort to avoid the CCTV cameras.’

‘They’d have seen a big guy with black hair, but only the top of my head. Could be one of a thousand dudes, even in this shirt.’ He tugged at the collar of his bright Hawaiian number that was only partly hidden by a black leather jacket. It would look like a warning beacon anywhere else but here: there was still a large contingent of hippies and arty types in San Francisco who sported much gaudier attire. Rink nodded at me. ‘I see you’re still dressing as classy as ever.’

I was pleased to hear the tongue in cheek insult; it meant my big friend was back, thinking a little clearer than before.

‘It’s academic now,’ I said, referring to the concern about forensics. ‘Chaney isn’t going to call the police. He didn’t die, and when he wakes up he’s going to realise how lucky he’s been. All that talk was just bluster. Fear. He’ll keep quiet. But that won’t mean a thing if we’re still standing round here when we reach the next stop.’

Rink crouched down and pushed the Glock into Chaney’s holster, then arranged his coat so that it was hidden from view. Then he followed me through the carriages, away from where the Chinese woman sat oblivious to what had just occurred. We were pulling into the next station at Montgomery Street and I could see that some bleary-eyed passengers were waiting on the platform.

‘What’s the time?’ I asked.

Rink calculated. ‘Has to be coming up six o’clock by now.’

‘Good. Some of the shops should be opening. Don’t know about you, Rink, but I need a strong cup of coffee.’

‘What you need is to get rid of that coat. It smells like someone took a crap in it.’

The doors opened and we had to stand aside to avoid a suited man who rushed aboard, already conducting business on his Blackberry. He didn’t give us so much as a glance and went for the nearest seat. We got off the train and moved for the exit stairs. The train was already moving away and, as it moved parallel to us, I glimpsed into the carriage where we’d left Chaney. He was still sound asleep. Probably he wouldn’t waken until the train reached the terminus at San Francisco International Airport. Wherever he’d been heading this morning, he was going to be late for his appointment.

I dumped the coat first chance I got. The jeans and boots should have gone in the Dumpster with it, but they were all I had with me. I threw the wool cap in with the rubbish, made do with smoothing down my hair. It was short so didn’t look too bad. The shirt and canvas jacket I’d worn beneath the coat weren’t filthy, so I looked reasonably dressed and wouldn’t be kicked out of the coffee shop we headed for. Rink was silent as we strode across a thoroughfare beginning to swell with foot traffic as people headed for their work places. Rink is the epitome of the strong, silent type—until he gets going—but this morning his silence was deeper than normal. I could feel it like a living thing, caged for now but ready to be let loose to ravage and tear.

I gave up smoking and hard liquor years ago, but the old habits had been replaced by my over-reliance on strong coffee. I ordered the largest cup on sale, got a fruit smoothie for Rink. The shop had only just opened its doors and the barista was overworked. As soon as he’d delivered our drinks he continued stocking the shelves we’d disturbed him from doing. That suited us: there were no other customers and we could speak in private. We took a table where we could see the entrance and out of the front window, so there’d be no surprises. It was an old habit I’d been unable to lose.

‘I saw you.’

‘Thought you might’ve,’ I said, cupping my drink with both palms. ‘But you were still going to go ahead with the hit?’

‘Thought you might try to stop me.’

‘I did.’

‘Yeah.’

‘If you were determined enough to kill Chaney there was nothing I could’ve done about it.’

Rink closed his eyes briefly. ‘No. But I’m glad you did. You said I made a mistake: I trust you. But you’d better tell me how or I’m going back for the punk.’

I took a long swallow of coffee. ‘Chaney is a thug; there’s no denying it. And I don’t doubt that he deserves the bullet you planned to put in him, but it wasn’t him.’

‘How can you be so sure?’

‘I went back and talked with your mom again, Rink.’

‘She told me it was Chaney.’

‘She was…uh, lying.’

Rink’s forehead creased, but it wasn’t at my suggestion that his mother was less than the symbol of virtue and goodness he believed, but that my words had struck a chord in him.

‘Not lying per se,’ I went on, ‘but guessing: putting two and two together and getting five. As you know, there had been some trouble with Chaney’s lot throwing their weight around, so it was only natural that your mom should mention him to the police, and to us when we got here. But she’s had more time to think and she doesn’t believe that Chaney’s the one responsible any more. For a start, she doesn’t believe that a clown like him could’ve done what he did.’

‘No,’ Rink said. ‘Now that I’ve met him and tested his mettle, I don’t think so either. But it doesn’t make a difference to me, Hunter. Someone is responsible and I’m gonna find him. And when I do, even you won’t be able to stop me next time.’

‘As if I’m going to try? I’ll be right there beside you, brother.’

Rink hadn’t even looked at his smoothie until now, and he chugged it down. ‘You went back to see my mom. How is she?’

‘Hurting. Physically and mentally. She was more concerned about you running off the way you did than anything else. She was frightened that she sent you after the wrong man and asked that I stop you from making the biggest mistake of your life.’

‘Chaney wouldn’t have been a loss…to anyone.’

‘Maybe not, but the way you went about it, there’d have been only one suspect. Your mom didn’t want to see you going to prison for the wrong man.’

‘That’d put a wrench in the works…no way I’d find the right one then.’ Rink squinted at me. ‘I take it the disguise wasn’t for my sake?’

‘I had to get close to Chaney in order to find you. Like many, he’s blind to anyone he deems beneath himself. It worked. I was able to find him, and he led me to you. Had a feeling that you’d do him on the early train where there was little chance of collateral damage. But I wasn’t positive and decided I’d shadow him for as long as it took you to make a move. Would’ve made life much easier if you hadn’t done a runner from the hospital, or if you’d answered your bloody phone when I called you.’

He curled a lip at my ear bashing. Usually the tables were turned the opposite direction. Then he grew melancholy, and his hooded eyes sparkled with unshed tears. ‘Didn’t want to bring you down with me, brother.’

‘Jesus, Rink! It’s your dad we’re talking about here. I want to avenge his murder as much as you do.’


Pre-Order the Kindle edition for $2.99 until June 1, 2015


 

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12

May 2015

Big Numbers, 1st Austin Carr Mystery by Jack Getze, Now Just 99¢!

Big Numbers by Jack Getze

If you’re one of those readers who absolutely, positively must start with the first book in a series, we have great news for you. You can purchase the first mystery in the Austin Carr series, Big Numbers by Jack Getze, for just 99¢ on Kindle and Nook. This is a limited time promotion, so don’t miss this opportunity to pick up a book that Edgar Award-winning author T.J. MacGregor called “darkly comic, with an engaging protagonist.” Links: Amazon (http://amzn.to/1EBRsQA) and B&N (http://bit.ly/1Fcnurk).

More about Big Numbers

Divorced dad Austin Carr wakes up every day in a beat-up camper, parked on someone else’s private property. Why? Because his alimony and child support payments were established by New Jersey’s family court system when his income was double, and for the last two years he has failed to earn the legally mandated monthly nut. He’s had his savings drained, his Maxima repossessed, his salary attached, and his visiting rights suspended. He bought the twelve-year-old Chevy pick-up with the rusty camper for $800 last month because another landlord tossed his butt in the street.

Will stretching the rules, his own morals, and the boundaries of common sense raise the cash needed to get his kids back? Or will his big mouth and bad behavior set him up for a nasty double-cross?

See if Austin can redeem himself and win back his children.

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7

May 2015

Preview of OVER THEIR HEADS by JB Kohl and Eric Beetner with a Limited Time Pre-Order Price

OTHx1000The drugs are missing and four lives are about to collide.

Clyde just wanted to make a little extra cash on the side to raise his new baby. Now his life and the lives of his wife and newborn daughter are in jeopardy.

Brent just wanted to do his job and be left alone. Now he’s in a race against time for his life.

Sean just wanted to escape the crime he committed in Detroit. Now he’s stumbled into another. The money he embezzled is nothing compared the load of narcotics that fell into his lap.

And Skeeter? Well, Skeeter wants the drugs back, and he’ll use any means necessary to get them.

When these four are let loose on a mad scramble to locate the drugs, they cut a path of mayhem and bloodshed across Virginia. Inept would-be criminals clash with ruthless drug dealers in a violent weekend where no one is safe.

The only certainty: Everyone is in over their heads.

 


 

Praise for Over Their Heads:

“Hard boiled pulp, hot off the press. The writing team of JB Kohl and Eric Beetner give the middle finger to polite crime writing and splatter the pages of Over Their Heads with foul mouthed, two-fisted action delivered in a hail of bullets. Neo-noir, transgressive fans will cheer. Drawing room mystery readers may need smelling salts. Don’t say you weren’t warned.”

—Anonymous-9, author of Hard Bite and Bite Harder

Over Their Heads is a stripped down hot-rod of a novel. JB Kohl and Eric Beetner keep things fast and tight, with a gasp or a laugh on pretty much every page as an assortment of would-be badasses try to track down some missing drugs. It’s a comedy of errors, scored with the sound of gunfire.”

—Jake Hinkson, author of The Big Ugly

Over Their Heads  is a real tour-de-force from the writers that brought you One too Many Blows to the Head.  A full-blown crime noir that will keep you on the edge of your seat!”

—Bill Craig, author of the Marlow Key West Mysteries

and the Decker P.I. mysteries


Pre-Order the Kindle edition for only $1.49 until June 1, 2015


 

1

CLYDE

If Madeline didn’t go into labor we’d be eating steak tonight. In a restaurant. Because I would have enough cash to take her out for a change. I’d have money for dinner and clothes and a vacation and enough left over for the baby’s college and graduate school—anything else our kid could want.

I rummaged through my sock drawer for a pair that matched. A wife at nine-and-a-half-months pregnant didn’t feel the best. In the past Madeline had been meticulous about organizing my sock drawer, folding and pairing them in neat rows. Those days were gone now, along with the days of creased khakis and starched shirts. My kind and beautiful wife had changed to someone pasty, swollen, and, yeah I’m gonna say it . . . bitchy.

For now, at least, she was asleep, hand resting over her protruding belly, mouth slightly open. In these moments, before she woke up and started to cry over her swollen ankles and nag me about the long hours I spent at the rental lot, before she opened her mouth and swore at me and the dick that happens to reside between my legs, which was clearly responsible for getting her in this predicament in the first place, marriage vows or no . . . in these moments when it was just me digging in my sock drawer for a mate to the only one I could find, when I picked up my khakis from the floor and shook out yesterday’s wrinkles . . . I would watch her sleep and she was just my wife, the woman I fell in love with.

I saw this movie once. It was one of those chick flicks I took her to on our last anniversary. Normally I don’t go in for that sort of thing, but it was our anniversary and that’s a time she tends to get sentimental and I’m almost always guaranteed sex. So I figure on those nights the least I can do is take her to a movie she wants to see, even if I have zero interest in it. I don’t even remember what the movie was about. Well, it was about a couple, that’s for sure, but the thing I remember is that the woman was pregnant. I mean hugely pregnant. And in one scene, the guy in that film bends over his just-about-to-pop pregnant wife and kisses her stomach. When that happened on the screen, next to me, in the theater, Madeline sighed and put her hand over her heart, and her breath hitched just the tiniest bit like it does when she is just about to cry or like when she watches those dog food commercials. That scene really got to her. I always remembered that moment, the moment in that movie when Madeline was moved by something so simple. We didn’t know it at the time, but she was already seven weeks pregnant and when we found out a week later and realized it was really, really real, I remembered that scene and played it out a hundred times in my head. I knew there would come a time when I’d lean over her and kiss her belly because it would make her happy. And, I don’t know, I guess I imagined myself whispering something profound and kind to her. So I had been biding my time, waiting until she was tired and heavy and hating being pregnant, because all the books told me that was exactly how it was going to be. I wanted it to be perfect. I guess the time never seemed perfect.

Because today I watched her with my socks in my hand, and just felt . . . tired. So I turned and walked out. I tiptoed so she wouldn’t wake up and I shut the door behind me as quietly as I could. Hollywood and that damn movie could kiss my ass. And so could the goddamn actress with the rail thin legs and a belly with no stretch marks. Madeline was a real woman. Despite it all, despite being Misery’s Deity at the moment, she was a real woman, the mother of my child. She was mine. And while this filled me with pride and gratitude, mostly these days I was filled with fear.

I toed through the pile of shoes at the front door, settling on a pair of bland loafers, and mentally ran over the day’s plans in my head.

ONE: Get to work, open the rental lot. If I was honest, this was my favorite part of every day. I liked the lot. It was mine. I had named it after myself, hadn’t I? Clyde McDowd Rentals was, in a way, my first kid. And now, after marriage and with a real, actual kid on the way, it was the one thing that was entirely mine. It was clean, organized, filled with files and the smell of the pink cleaning solution the janitor used late at night. It was white tile floor and fluorescent lights. It was the roar of airplanes taking off and landing at Richmond International. It was business men and families. And somewhere along the way, it started to bring in a lot more money than it should have. Which is why I really, really needed to be at work on time today.

I looked down at the scuffed loafer I had pulled from the pile of shoes. How could one couple own so many shoes? Even my shoes were something Madeline picked out for me. The house. The carpet. The paint. The towels in the bathroom. But Clyde McDowd Rentals? Not so, baby. Not so. I drifted into the kitchen and sank into one of the rickety wooden chairs at our vintage table and pulled on a sock.

TWO: Check to make sure the Chevy Tahoe was ready to go. The ceiling seams needed to be perfect, the packets had to be laying right, behind a soft, thin layer of sponge. I always put a pack of Winstons in the glove compartment for the driver. Never hurts to kiss a little ass, just in case. I froze with the sock halfway on. Shit. I forgot the Winstons.

THREE: Stop and pick up Winstons.

The mattress in the bedroom groaned as Madeline pushed herself up. The giantess hath awakened, I thought, not unkindly. Hell, if Madeline had been her normal, petite, good-humored self, she would have laughed too. And some day, I was sure I’d tell her my vision of her at nine months pregnant—an angry, towering woman crushing all in her path, and she would laugh and punch me in the arm and say she loved me.

I’d tell her about all of this one day and not just how grouchy she was. I’d tell her about everything I’d done for her, about everything I sacrificed, the risks I took, the plans I made for us, for our family.

Today was not going to be that day.

Today I shoved my feet in my shoes and popped a piece of bread in the toaster. I heard her approach from the other room and pasted a smile on my face. She opened the door and shuffled into the kitchen, her legs swollen, beautiful dark hair cascading down her back. My smile became a real one. No matter what, it was easy to love Madeline. All of it for you, I thought. “Want coffee?” I asked.

She didn’t answer but reached to the cupboard above the coffee pot, stomach resting on the counter, hands fumbling for filters and coffee beans. “Let me do that,” I said. “You sit down. Put your feet up.”

“It won’t help,” she said. “Nothing does. I’m a house.” She turned to look at me and I caught a glimpse of the clock on the stove at the same time I caught the look on her face. 7:45 on the clock. Worry on her face. Car lot opened at 8:00. I had been told to expect the driver any time after 8:10.

Christ on a cracker.

“You’re not a house,” I said, moving to hug her. She allowed the touch and rested her head on my shoulder. Her hair smelled like that really good shampoo she uses. 7:46.

FOUR: Move Chevy Tahoe to the back part of the lot under the maple that tended to shit sap on cars all day long. No one ever wanted to drive a sap-speckled car. It was another reason I put the Winstons in the glove box.

Madeline lifted her head from my shoulder and tried to smile. Then she burst into tears. I walked her to the table and sat her down. 7:47.

“I don’t know,” she said, her face in her hands. “I just don’t know. I feel like this is it. Like this kid is coming out of me today. I’m so tired.” She slumped forward and rested her head on her forearms. “I am not up to this today. My back hurts. And why didn’t we find out the sex?”

Because you didn’t want to. You said it was a good thing to be surprised. You said we wanted to experience the wonder of birth like they did in the old days. “We just didn’t,” I said. I ran a hand over her hair and kissed the top of her head. Then I pulled the filters from the cupboard, poured water in the coffee pot, and spilled coffee beans on the floor. 7:50.

Madeline looked at the beans. “I can’t clean that up. I can’t bend down and clean that up.” She sniffled and started crying again.

“You don’t have to, babe. I’ve got it.”

“Those are expensive beans, too.”

FIVE: Close shop doors at 5:00 p.m. and wait for instructions. At some point this evening, I would receive directions to the envelope containing a debit card and access to an account with my money. It was safer than cash and smarter, and I had done it a few times before already. This time was big, though. This was the last one, the one that would set us up forever.

I swept up the beans and tossed them in the trash. 7:52. I was late. There was no way I’d make it there in time.

I buttered the toast and spread peanut butter on it. Then I set it in front of Madeline and kissed her on the forehead. “I’ve got to make a call. I’ll be right back.”

I knew I should offer to stay with her, to sit and hold her hand and stroke her hair and reassure her. If she only knew that this was all for her. I stepped out onto the front stoop and auto dialed Brent’s cell.

There was fumbling as he picked up and a frazzled, “Yeah.”

“You at the office?”

I heard him clear his throat. “In the car in the Starbuck’s drive-through. Want anything?”

“Need you to open.”

“Sure.”

“No. Listen. I need to you to open. This is important.”

I listened as Brent ordered a Venti Caramel Macchiato and then came back on the line. “You sure you don’t want something?”

“Nothing.”

“Right. Open the lot. Got it.”

“Shut the fuck up and listen to me, Brent. There’s a Chevy Tahoe near the front. I need you to jockey it to the back under the maple tree. Got it?”

“Chevy. Maple. Tahoe. That’s a shitty tree. What do you got against that car?”

I pinched the bridge of my nose. “Just do it. Don’t fuck up. I’ll be there as soon as I can.”

I could almost hear Brent shrug through the phone. I had no idea what was worse. Having Madeline pissed at me or trusting the car arrangements to Brent. It’s like asking how do you want to die? Fire or drawn and quartered?

 

 

2

BRENT

What the hell was up his ass? Clyde used to be such a great boss. I guessed it was the kid that had him on edge recently. I mean, I took the job because the hours were good, the pressure was low and the policy on smoking was lax.

I watched all those Hertz and Enterprise jerks running around in their matching shirts and scripted sales pitches and I thanked sweet Jesus that wasn’t me. Still never thought I’d be renting cars out at the airport. Beats digging ditches, as my dad always said.

I tried to understand what Clyde was going through though. A baby. That’s heavy. And him being a business owner. Entrepreneur. Sole breadwinner. I know I’m not ready for that yet.

I kept feeling like something had been up for a while now, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. He would get all sweaty about once a month, giving orders on certain cars like this Tahoe now. When he told me his wife was pregnant I put two and two together. Lately, seemed like they added up to five.

Not my business, though. We were friends, sure, but his life was his and my life was mine. To each his own, as my mom used to say. They said a lot of stuff, my parents.

I opened the rental counter only five minutes late. Not bad for me. I’d almost finished refilling the brochure holders and the maps to Colonial Williamsburg, when the first customers of the day came in.

A family on vacation, cranky from the flight which must have left wherever they came from while it was still dark outside. I’d be cranky, too. A mom with short, sensible hair and twenty extra pounds around the middle. A dad with a bald top and a ring of sad looking wisps circling the rim of his skull. He toted about eighty extra pounds around his belt line. Eight a.m. and already sweating like a hog.

They pulled enough bags for a two-week trip and two kids who looked like puberty had run them down in the street driving a Sherman tank. A boy and a girl. They looked to be in the midst of a contest for which one could grow the most pimples. A dead tie so far, from what I could see.

“Morning. How can I help you?” I said. First one of the day gets my special “helpful guy” treatment.

Dad stepped in front of his depressing family and took charge. One look at him and I could tell the only time in his life he got to take charge of anything was with a pudgy, given-up wife and two kids destined to live out the rest of their lives waiting for their awkward phase to end. Congrats, Pops, you’re king of the royal family of kill-me-if-it-ever-happens-to-me.

“We have a reservation. Griffin.”

All business, this guy. Better than the chit chat of some jerk who got off an eight-hour flight and needed to vent about the shitty flight attendants and sub-standard food.

“Okay,” I said. “Let me pull up your reservation.”

I typed his name into the computer and his page came on screen. Another good thing about being with a small, independent rental company is we can pretty much count all the rentals on two hands in a day. There’s never a lot of searching for lost files around here.

“Here we go. Minivan, right?” As if I needed to look that up in the computer.

“Yes. Minivan. For two weeks.” His wife fanned him with a folded up map. I hoped his face didn’t turn any redder or I’d start to worry about the old guy having a heart attack in the lobby. The two sad sack kids stared blankly, the boy mouth-breathing through thick braces.

“That’s mileage included,” he sort of asked, sort of stated.

“Yes. Mileage included.” I’m sure it made him feel like a real provider, a real hunter/gatherer to this family of Cro-Magnons.

“Dad, I’m hungry,” the boy said.

“Yeah, me too,” the girl followed up. Really? These lard-asses hungry? You don’t say.

“We’ll get breakfast as soon as we’re out of here and on the road,” he said in that typical annoyed dad way. I bet he couldn’t wait to get behind the wheel so he could threaten them with the old, “If you don’t knock it off I’ll turn this car around and . . .” But if they were at an airport I doubted he was gonna drive them all the way home. Mileage or no mileage included.

“Where y’all from?” I asked while the rental form printed.

“Detroit,” he said, clipped and sharp to let me know that was all the information I would be getting out of him.

I nodded. I figured I didn’t need to tell him what a shithole he lived in, so I left it there.

“Here we are,” I said. I read him all the particulars; he declined the insurance. They all do. Anyone renting from us was a cheap bastard, so they all turned down the insurance. I got his info and offered to do the walk through of the van with him.

“I think I know how a minivan works,” he said.

“It’s more just to check for any damage to the vehicle so you won’t be liable upon return. And there may be a few things in the newer models you may not be familiar with.”

“Da-a-a-ad,” the boy said, his impatience showing like the big red zit on his nose.

“That’s fine, just tell me what spot it’s in and we’ll get going. We still have a drive ahead of us to get to the beach.”

“I don’t know why you wouldn’t let my dad pick us up,” the wife said.

“I’m not gonna rely on your parents to get us around. What if we want to take a day trip?” He didn’t hide his annoyance and I knew this was an argument that started back in Detroit.

“What day trips are we gonna take, Sean?”

“We at least want the freedom, Linda.” He spat out her name with such a fermented venom. That one word, her name, had been marinated in all the years of marriage and all the variations on this argument they’d ever had, which I took to be many.

“You’re in space twenty-three,” I said, still in my early morning fake cheeriness. Besides, the Griffin family provided me with some great theater to start the day. The Fighting Griffins starring in Sad Suburban Vacation: A Tragedy.

“Thanks,” he said and a bead of sweat broke loose from his empty forehead and ran down his nose to splash on my counter. If he saw it, he ignored it. The whole wheezing, squeaking mass of them turned as one and rolled out pushing, pulling and toting luggage almost as square as they were.

I sat back down, wiped the drop of sweat away with a napkin and lit my first smoke of the day, thankful my life wasn’t as soul-crushing and shitty as that guy and his dumb-ass family. For me, right then behind the rental counter on a sunny Virginia day—payday no less—life was looking pretty good.

 

 

3

CLYDE

Despite being late, despite the forgotten cigarettes and the ten minute wait at the Gas ’N Gulp to pick them up, despite Madeline’s tears, I smiled when I pulled into the lot. It was a scorcher of a day already. Jets were screaming a half mile away at the airport, and my lot was ready for renters.

The lot had it all: compacts, sub-compacts, convertibles, SUVs, luxury sedans, mid-size sedans and coupes, luxury coupes, mini vans, and full size vans. I had been considering adding RV rentals as well, but it was likely to be a couple of years before I was feeling ambitious enough for that. I needed to do more homework on the demand, and with the kid soon to be born, I wasn’t eager to undertake any additional responsibility. Besides, I was spread a little too thin as it was.

I didn’t look for the Tahoe under the maple. It was early and Brent would have parked it where I told him. He might be a grumbler, but he could be counted on to do what he was told. When I walked in, he stood at the twin filing cabinets in the front of the office, stuffing a rental agreement into a drawer.

“Remember your alphabet,” I said. “A, B, C.”

“Yeah. I got it.” He gave a half smile. He acted pissed, but he was really shitty when it came to filing stuff. I kept him around because, in addition to doing what he was told, he didn’t ask many questions and he didn’t seem too interested in what I did when I wasn’t standing right next to him. In fact, he seemed to try really hard to avoid me sometimes, which was just fine these days. The less we saw of one another, the better.

“Anyone come in?”

He gave me a gesture that was half shrug, half nod. “Family from Detroit. Gave’em a minivan.”

I smiled. “Historic triangle, Busch Gardens, or Civil War memorials?”

He shrugged and picked up a copy of Sports Illustrated he kept under the counter. “Don’t know. Don’t care.”

I wanted to tell him to do something besides stand there, but the truth was we were a tight ship. We filed everything right away, kept things well-ordered, had a cleaning lady come in every night to spruce things up and keep the tiles their whitest.

An airport shuttle pulled up and a couple stepped off, a woman in an Ally McBeal knock off suit and stiletto heels. The guy wore a dark suit and designer sunglasses and gave me one of those chin jerks that is supposed to be a nod. I head jerked back at him. “Good morning,” I said.

“Need a sports car.” He smiled. The woman acted bored and drummed her fingers on the counter. I pegged them as business associates and bed partners. She wore a wedding ring. He didn’t. Not my business, but I always liked to speculate anyway.

My cell phone pinged, so I gestured for Brent to take over and I stepped to the back to answer.

“Hello?”

“It’s time. I told you it was going to be soon. I need you to come and get me.” Madeline was puffing out short breaths, the breathy huffs were loud in my ears.

“How far apart are the contractions?”

“I don’t know. Seven minutes? Five? Just get here.”

I hung up and gestured for Brent to step away from the couple.

“Madeline is in labor,” I said.

“Cool. Congrats, man. Go on. I got it here.”

“Yeah. Look. I need you to get that Tahoe to the right guy today. He’s a VIP and he wants that car.”

“The one under the maple?”

“Yeah. Look. Make sure he gets it.” I laid the Winstons on the counter. “Put these in the glove box.”

“Fine.” He turned back to the couple.

I grabbed his arm. “Brent, listen. It is very important that car goes to the right customer. Do you understand?”

“Yes. Geez. I got it. Tahoe. Tree shit. Right guy. Go. Have a baby. I’ve got work to do.”

I stood there for a minute, wondering how angry Madeline would be if I waited until the Tahoe was off the lot before picking her up. Brent was back at the counter with the couple, his head bent over the paper forms I still hadn’t gotten around to computerizing yet. The Tahoe was where it was supposed to be, Brent would make sure the smokes were in the glove box, and Madeline was in labor. Shit.

I walked back outside, climbed into my car, and drove toward home.

 

 

4

BRENT

Clyde left in a hot panic. Can’t say I blame him. I can’t even believe he had space in his head for some special reservation when his wife is in labor, but I guess if it were my name on the business, I’d want everything to go right, too.

Before the dust even settled from Clyde’s sprint out the door, the Griffin family came back. Same dumpy Midwestern foursome pulling their same beige luggage and their same fat asses. This couldn’t be good.

“Mr. Griffin, you’re back,” I said, trying to be cheery before the shit storm I knew was coming my way.

“That car you rented me,” he said. “It smells.” Then he added, “Bad,” in case I thought he’d come back to compliment us on the floral scent of our air fresheners. We don’t use air fresheners. You get what you get.

“I’m so sorry about that.”

“Smells like ass,” the boy said. His mother immediately shushed him with a small slap to the back of the head. I could see the embarrassment on her face for her son and her husband. I could imagine the argument in the van before turning around, her all, “It’s fine, just drive,” and him all, “I won’t pay for a car that smells like ass.”

“We want a new one,” he said. He stuck out his chin, such as it was, and acted entitled. I took a deep breath, working hard to keep it together.

“Of course. No problem.” I sounded less like a smiley glad hand and more like a waiter about to go back to the kitchen and spit in his food. I checked the roster of vehicles, of which there aren’t many on our lot. No more minivans. “I’m afraid, Mr. Griffin,” I started. I saw him already tense up, planning his rebuttal. “That was our last minivan.”

“That’s not my problem.” His face glowed red and tiny beads of sweat dotted his forehead all the way back across his dome. “The van you gave me smells like something died in the air conditioning unit and it’s obvious someone was smoking in there. We specifically asked for a non-smoking car.”

He hadn’t, since that wasn’t one of our options, but the customer is always right. Often times a humongous dick, but always right.

“Well,” I said as I checked the list of cars. “I can give you a four door sedan.”

“No, that won’t do. We need the storage. Can you not see the bags we have with us?”

“Sean . . .,” his wife tried to calm him down, but not trying very hard in case he turned his anger on her. She knew the drill.

“No, Linda, we won’t be treated like this. This is our vacation. I’m not driving around in a car that smells like a public toilet and I’m not driving around in some Japanese shoebox. We’re from goddamn Detroit for Christ sake.”

“Kids, you come with me,” Linda said as she ushered the kids away from Daddy’s tantrum.

I balled up my fists, let them loose again and tried talking myself out of using them on this jerk wad. I promised Clyde I wouldn’t have another incident like that again. The last guy I punched sued us. Almost won too, if he hadn’t been drunk. After that, Clyde installed the security camera, but I think that was as much to check up on me than any rude customers.

“I want that one,” he said. He pointed a fat finger at the black Chevy Tahoe I hadn’t had a chance to move yet.

“I do have an SUV you can have, Mr. Griffin. Let me just get it from around back and run it through the washer—”

“I want that one.” God, throw a diaper on this guy and he’d be a three hundred pound baby.

“That one is already reserved.”

“Again, not my problem. You said you had another one, give it to them. I’ve already been delayed enough. I’m not going to sit around your shitty airport while you wash another stink bomb of a car when a perfectly good, clean one is right fucking there.”

I saw the mom put a hand over one of each kid’s ears.

I wanted to punch this guy more than I’ve ever wanted to punch someone before in my life, but not more than I wanted to keep my job, so fuck it. Let him have the damn thing. The sooner he left, the sooner I could wash up the other Tahoe and give Clyde’s special repeat customer guy a twin of the Tahoe outside.

“You’re right,” I said. The thing they all want to hear. “I’ll change the paperwork for you, no need to sign anything else. You have a nice day.” I lifted the keys from the desk where Clyde had set them and traded Mr. Griffin for the minivan keys, then I secretly wished for the Tahoe to blow a tire, run off into a ditch, catch fire and trap him and his fat fucking family inside the burning wreckage where they could all sizzle to death like the chubby little sausage links they were.

I smiled the whole time I handed over the keys, but as soon as he turned his back I gave him the finger. I made sure the security camera could see it.


Pre-Order the Kindle edition for only $1.49 until June 1, 2015


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19

Apr 2015

Circling the Runway by J.L. Abramo, New from Down & Out Books

Circling the Runway by J.L. Abramo

The new Jake Diamond mystery from J.L. Abramo, CIRCLING THE RUNWAY, is published today by Down & Out Books.

“Jake Diamond is back and it feels like the return of an old friend. One of my all-time favorite PI series,” says Steve Hamilton, Edgar Award-winning author of The Lock Artist. “CIRCLING THE RUNWAY is the best yet.”

In this fourth entry of the series, Private Investigator Jacob Diamond and San Francisco Detective Sergeant Roxton Johnson are famous for not getting along. Cats and dogs. Oil and water. Liston and Ali. Jake and Rocky.

When an assistant district attorney is murdered in his high-rise apartment building, and Johnson suspects his lieutenant may have something to do with it, he can think of no one else to turn to for help — no one he can trust — except Jake Diamond.

If the mismatched duo can avoid stepping on each other’s toes long enough — they may be able to stop circling the runway and land on the villain’s doorstep.

Lieutenant Laura Lopez, Detective Ray Boyle, Joey Clams, Vinnie Strings and Darlene Roman are all back in the first new Jake Diamond escapade since COUNTING TO INFINITY.

CIRCLING THE RUNWAY is available in trade paperback and ebook formats.

More praise for CIRCLING THE RUNWAY:

“Think it is impossible to find a new take on the wise-cracking San Francisco PI? Meet Jake Diamond and think again. Jake and his crew — both the good guys and the bad guys — are sharp and smart, convincing and complex.” — SJ Rozan, Edgar Award-winning author (as Sam Cabot) of Skin of the Wolf.

“J.L. Abramo’s Circling the Runway offers the swagger and strut of Raymond Chandler, the skintight plotting of James M. Cain and smart-ass one-line humor smacking of Mickey Spillane. ” — Jack Getze, author of Big Money and Big Mojo.

“In Circling the Runway, J.L. Abramo is shooting at us again — and he’s doing it from every shadow and hidden doorway, from every window and passing car. And damned if every bullet doesn’t hit its mark perfectly. ” — Trey Barker, author of Death is Not Forever and Exit Blood.

“J.L. Abramo’s Circling the Runway takes up where Black Mask boys like Hammett, Gardner, and Carroll John Daly left off. It’s loaded with tough guys and hard-boiled action — emphasis on the hard.” — David Housewright , Edgar Award-winning author of Unidentified Woman #15.

“Jake Diamond returns after a ten-year hiatus, and his reappearance is well worth the wait. Abramo offers yet another smart, funny and action packed installment to his award-winning series with Circling the Runway.” — The Denver Review.

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2

Apr 2015

Moonlight Weeps by Vincent Zandri Nominated for 2015 Thriller Award

Moonlight Weeps by Vincent Zandri

Down & Out Books is thrilled that Vincent Zandri’s Dick Moonlight novel MOONLIGHT WEEPS has been selected as a finalist for the 2015 Thriller Award for Best Paperback Original Novel by the International Thriller Writers. The ITW Thriller Award Winners will be announced at ThrillerFest X, July 11th, 2015 at the Grand Hyatt (New York City).

More about MOONLIGHT WEEPS:

Dick Moonlight can’t help himself. Moonlight, the private detective known as the head case with a bullet lodged in his brain, should be grateful for his current job. But when it becomes clear the cash-starved brain surgeon he’s been hired to drive around is protecting his son from a rape conviction, Moonlight is disgusted.

Worse, when the charges turn into a case of “reckless murder,” Moonlight’s the only one trying to keep the kid from the electric chair though the girl — a state senator’s daughter — clearly committed suicide. Then Moonlight and his unwilling assistant, a fat Elvis impersonator owing him money, stumble into a much bigger plot and are soon dodging Hollywood obsessed drug-running Russian thugs, corrupt government officials, and the specter of Moonlight’s recently diseased girlfriend.

Praise for the Dick Moonlight series:

“Sensational…Masterful…Brilliant.” — New York Post

“The action never wanes.” — Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel

“Gritty, fast-paced, lyrical and haunting.” — Harlan Coben, bestselling author of Six Years

“Tough, stylish, heartbreaking.” — Don Winslow, bestselling author of Savages

“Non-stop action.” — I Love a Mystery

“Vincent Zandri nails reader’s attention.” — Boston Herald

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6

Mar 2015

Down & Out Books Announces the Return of Jake Diamond in CIRCLING THE RUNWAY by J.L. Abramo

After a ten-year break, private investigator Jake Diamond is back on the job in the new original novel Circling the Runway.

Diamond was introduced in Catching Water in a Net (2001), winner of the St. Martin’s Press/Private Eye Writers of America Award for Best First Private Eye Novel, and subsequently featured in Clutching at Straws (2003) and Counting To Infinity (2004).

Circling the Runway, the long awaited fourth addition to the acclaimed series, will be released by Down & Out Books in April 2015—following on the heels of Abramo’s highly-praised stand-alone thriller Gravesend (2012) and Chasing Charlie Chan (2013).

“During the writing of Circling the Runway, I was surprised and pleased with how well I knew Jake Diamond after nearly a decade,” Abramo says. “It was as if Jake never left.”

Jacob Diamond and San Francisco Detective Sergeant Roxton Johnson are famous for not getting along.  Cats and dogs.  Oil and water.  Liston and Ali.  Jake and Rocky.  When an assistant district attorney is murdered in a high-rise apartment building, and Johnson suspects his lieutenant may have something to do with it, he can think of no one else to turn to for help—no one he can trust—except Jake Diamond.  If the mismatched duo can avoid stepping on each other’s toes long enough—they may be able to stop circling the runway and land on the villain’s doorstep. Lieutenant Laura Lopez, Detective Ray Boyle, Joey Clams, Vinnie Strings and Darlene Roman are all back in action in the first new Jake Diamond escapade since Counting to Infinity.

“Jake Diamond is back after a ten-year hiatus, and his reappearance is well worth the wait. Abramo offers yet another smart, funny and action-packed installment to his award-winning series with Circling the Runway.”—The Denver Review

Down & Out Books publisher, Eric Campbell added, “The dedicated Diamond followers who know Jake will feel the same—and those who don’t know Jake will become new fans of the smart, witty and charming San Francisco private eye.”

Down & Out Books, an indie-publisher based in Tampa, FL, has been serving up the best crime fiction since 2011.

For more information, author interviews, or review copies of CIRCLING THE RUNWAY, contact Christy@DownAndOutBooks.com.

Visit J.L. Abramo online at http://www.jlabramo.com/.

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5

Mar 2015

Gordon Brown Signs Book Deal with Down & Out Books

Down & Out Books is delighted to welcome Scottish author Gordon Brown to its family of crime novelists by releasing his debut thriller Falling in the U.S. in late 2015. “Chaos reigns as the plot comes thick and fast in this thriller told from alternating perspectives of a brilliantly drawn cast of characters.” — Daily Record.

“I’m excited that Down & Out Books will be publishing Falling,” said Brown, “and looking forward to seeing my debut novel reach a new audience in the States.”

“Readers won’t be able to put down Gordon’s fast-paced thriller,” Down & Out Books publisher Eric Campbell added.

Falling, a crime thriller set in Glasgow, Scotland, is centered on Charlie Wiggs, a quiet, unassuming accountant for thirty years. When Charlie agrees to look after a package for a work colleague, he doesn’t expect to be flung from the roof of a forty-story building. He doesn’t intend to be caught up in a world of money laundering and blackmail. Nor does he ever think he would find himself being hunted by a vicious criminal gang. Forced to flee for his life Charlie is reluctantly joined by George, a maintenance man and George’s girlfriend, Tina. The trio find themselves falling into a world that they are ill equipped to deal with. A world populated by criminals and death. A world that gives them three choices: to run, to die or to fight back. “Brown keeps a firm, skillful grip on his material in what turns out to be a very promising debut novel.” — The Herald.

A native of Glasgow, Scotland, Gordon Brown lives in his homeland. He spent twenty-five years in the sales and marketing world working on everything from alcohol to global charities and from TV to lingerie. Gordon started his work-life packing shelves for a supermarket in the UK before moving to Canada for the brewery business. He returned to the UK as the Director of Brands for a UK-based brewery before setting up his own marketing business in 2001. Falling, Gordon’s first novel, was originally published in 2008. He is a founding board member of Scotland’s premier crime writing festival, Bloody Scotland. Gordon is also a DJ with local radio and is married with two children.

Down & Out Books, an indie-publisher based in Tampa, FL, has been serving up the best crime fiction since 2011.

To obtain a galley version (PDF, mobi, epub) for review, or to coordinate an interview with Gordon, contact Christy@DownAndOutBooks.com.

Visit Gordon Brown online at http://www.gordonjbrown.com/.

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16

Feb 2015

Now Available! Death Is Not Forever by Trey R. Barker

Death Is Not Forever by Trey R. Barker

Trey R. Barker’s third Barefield novel, Death Is Not Forever, is published today by Down & Out Books. “An engaging, rough-and-raw saga that has a decided bonus in that it delivers some of the best dialog since Elmore Leonard”, says crime novelist Les Edgerton.

More about the book, below.

SYNOPSIS:

Life should have been perfect for Jeremiah Bean. A beautiful wife who wore a Texas Rangers’ badge, a beautiful baby daughter, a judgeship his for the taking.

Instead, his wife and daughter are dead, and his judge’s bench has been taken away because of a bit of a problem with the needle.

Now Judge Royy Bean II, trying to stay off the radar of law enforcement, quietly—though fully armed and always wearing a bullet-proof vest—handles squabbles between thieves and burglars and other assorted fringe members of society in a dusty compound in far southern Texas.

But someone has left a package for him in Barefield: a finger, a note, and a photocopy of a Texas Rangers’ badge—implying things weren’t quite kosher the night his wife, and three of her fellow Rangers, became celebrated heroes.

Bean’s semi, full of dope-packed coffins, is on fire, cops are searching for him, and he’s found fourteen-year-old Faith chained up and hidden inside the cab of the truck. Clearly not what he signed up for.

While trying to take Faith home, Bean confronts the Ranger he believed to be long dead and is forced to face his greatest lost treasure.

Available in trade paperback (Amazon | Barnes & Noble) and for Kindle.

REVIEWS:

“Trey R. Barker just might be the closest successor to Jim Crumley we have. Both hail from Texas and both have written some of the grittiest noir prose on God’s damned earth. Death Is Not Forever not only took my breath away, I worked up a good sweat while reading it.”
— Vincent Zandri, New York Times and USA Today Bestselling author of Everything Burns and Moonlight Weeps

“Ernest Hemingway described good writing the best, when he compared it to an iceberg in which nine-tenths is submerged and one-tenth shows. A book as a participatory exercise where the reader’s intelligence is assumed and is expected to do some of the work. Such is Trey R. Barker’s novel, Death is Not Forever. It’s from an author who respects the reader completely. An engaging, rough-and-raw saga that has a decided bonus in that it delivers some of the best dialog since Elmore Leonard. Super enjoyable time spent in reading it! Just pure pleasure here.”
— Les Edgerton, author of The Rapist, The Bitch, The Genuine, Imitation, Plastic Kidnapping and others.

“The story literally takes flight into a new echelon of authenticity and excellence. Trey R. Barker has exceeded himself with Death is Not Forever — bloody palm prints of truth smear every page. Prose that blows the designer socks off the faux tough guys writing about blood and guts from the safety of well-managed condos. If you want the real thing — the real guts, the real glory, real pain and regret — this is it. Buy it and pray the book will find enough promotion and publicity to finally lift Barker from shadows into the spotlight.
— Anonymous-9, Hard Bite, Bite Harder, Dreaming Deep

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